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Woman told to wear mini-skirt to work awarded £27,000 for sexual harassment

A Northern Ireland woman has been awarded £27,000 by an employment tribunal for the sexual harassment she received while working at J&M Services, according to the BBC.

The woman was subjected to “disgracefully lewd comments” by Mervyn Johnston and Joe McFall, and was then dismissed when running late from taking her child to a doctor’s appointment.

Then, when seeking new employment, she was given a “very negative and bad reference” by the company.

The woman said she enjoyed her work when she started in October 2011 and was the only female of nine employees.

Within weeks however, Johnston and McFall began making comments about her figure.

In the lead up to Christmas the comments became worse, however the woman couldn’t leave her position as it would have been hard to find another role.

Shortly before Christmas, the woman was told that as other directors from the company were going to be visiting she was expected to wear a mini-skirt and low-fronted top.

On the 9th of January she took her child to a doctor’s appointment, and when she sent a text message to tell her employers she was running late, was told things weren’t working out and that she would have to be let go.

The tribunal found that the woman had suffered serious harassment, which was compounded by the fact that it came from the company’s owners.

There are a couple of interesting aspects to this case, not least of which is Mr Johnston and Mr McFall believing they could treat an employee in the way they did without repercussions.

One of the key aspects of this situation was not only the harassment, but the negative reference which was given after the dismissal.

It is against the law for an employer to give a bad reference for an employee, and isn’t that difficult to prove.

This case goes to show that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue and one which the employment tribunal is going to come down heavily on.

If as an employee you believe you are being sexually harassed or discriminated against you should talk to a trade union representative or employment lawyer.

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